Potawatomi Zoo’s Andean bear officially moves into new exhibit

(Photo supplied/Potawatomi Zoo)

The Potawatomi Zoo’s Andean bear, Muniri, officially moved into his new exhibit this week.

“We’ve been waiting for this moment for almost two years now,” says Josh Sisk, executive director of the Potawatomi Zoo. “I’m so excited to see how Muniri enjoys his new space, and how people enjoy watching him.”

Muniri is 9 years old, and he weighs about 250 pounds. Muniri moved to the Zoo on August 30, 2023, on the recommendation of the Andean Bear Species Survival Plan, a cooperative population management program through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. For nearly a year, he lived in the Zoo’s old lion habitat while the Zoo was completing the Andean bear exhibit.

The Zoo’s Andean bear habitat is connected to The Lodge, a new concessions and dining facility at the Zoo. Together, the habitat and dining facility were part of a $6.2 million project. While The Lodge officially opened on March 28, 2024, the Zoo took a few extra months to complete the bear habitat and grow grass for Muniri’s comfort.

“Having a vulnerable species of bear that most people don’t know about is a great opportunity for us to tell an important conservation story,” explains Sisk. “We’re hoping to have a breeding recommendation in the future, so not only will we be able to talk about Andean bear conservation, we’ll be able to contribute to species preservation.”

Andean bears, also known as spectacled bears, are native to the Andean mountains of South America. They’re the last species in the short-faced bear genus (Tremarctos). Andean bears are considered vulnerable to extinction due to loss of habitat and poaching.

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